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Where is the Outrage?

notmymatesEver since that day back in 2001 when the Norwegian freighter Tampa rescued asylum seekers from drowning and John Howard refused permission for them to disembark at an Australian port, the political landscape of our country changed. Because we the people endorsed that decision, we must accept responsibility for everything that has happened since. That John Howard’s legacy will be tainted forever by this one opportunistic decision and be the defining measure of his time as prime minister is something for him to contemplate. That we the people have, subsequent to that decision, forced both the major political parties to quiver in their shoes every time the media highlights the issue is something for us to contemplate.

On Q&A last Monday night, Jamie Briggs, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development argued against his government’s culpability in the Manus Island murder of Reza Berati by reminding Labor Transport spokesperson, Anthony Albanese that 1000 asylum seekers perished at sea over the past 5 years. When a debate descends down this path one can see that the substance of the issue has been reduced to the level of its form. It now comes down to the question of who has been more successful in killing the least number of people seeking asylum in the race to stop the boats. Where is the outrage?

When we defend the charge of causing someone’s death with a counter charge that our accuser did the same thing, we should know that we have reached the bottom of the barrel in our moral and social understanding of rightness and wrongness.

When one politician defends his government’s policies that have resulted in a death, by claiming that his opposition’s record is worse, it is the performance of the two governments that becomes the issue, not the deaths themselves. If this is how our elected representatives choose to protect their reputations, and we the people do and say nothing, then by default, we accept that this is a reasonable standard to set in evaluating the collective Australian moral and social conscience. It makes what they do acceptable and we, by our silence, responsible.

When the Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison gave his first report on the riots that precipitated the death of Raza Berati, he appeared to blame the asylum seekers for their attempts to break out of the compound. By doing that he showed his inexperience and seemed too eager to demonise those in detention. He then took five days to correct that initial assertion and has thus far not told us why he waited so long to do that. Where is the outrage? If we, the people, accept his behaviour as reasonable, and by extension approve of his actions, it places a question over our moral compass and makes us jointly responsible for the consequences.

That a majority of Australians support the present methods of detention is probably more disturbing than the minister’s actions. We have allowed it to become the single most potent issue that divides us. So where does the responsibility lie? In the final analysis it is with us, the people.

In making this issue so potent we have effectively removed the onus of leadership from our elected representatives and taken control of the process. The elected representatives of the two major parties have demonstrated, all too clearly, the absence of a backbone, an inability to lead with any degree of morality and justice and are guided only by what they think we want. Only The Greens and a handful of righteous but ineffective individuals on both sides have stood in their way. At the last election The Greens captured 8.65% of the primary vote.

What lessons are we to take from the events in Papua New Guinea last week? Unless this becomes an issue that kick-starts a reversal of our attitude toward this sordid low point in our history, the answer is, not much. We seem to have forgotten the words of Lieutenant General David Morrison when he said: ‘The standard we walk past is the standard we accept.’ We can march, we can write letters to our local member, we can protest in a variety of ways but in the end we really only have the ballot box to register any meaningful disapproval. The vigils held in each Capital and Provincial city for Reza Berati barely received a mention in the mainstream media but it was prominent on social media and the images and words published there have been profound. However, without a widespread public outrage expressed through the mainstream media, which itself now appears to be as ineffective as our elected representatives, this immoral and socially disgraceful activity will continue.

Where is the outrage?


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  1. John Kelly

    Reblogged this on THE VIEW FROM MY GARDEN and commented:

    When we defend the charge of causing someone’s death with a counter charge that our accuser did the same thing, we should know that we have reached the bottom of the barrel in our moral and social understanding of rightness and wrongness.

  2. clarelhdm

    Your last sentences relating to the mainstream media are the most telling. Over 20,000 people attended the nationwide vigils. I assure you organisers of these vigils spent many hours sending out press releases to alert the media of these events. Obviously choices are made by those who control these media outlets to ignore such a mass movement. And obviously they have also chosen, in the main, to control the ‘information’ available to the public about asylum seekers. I doubt the support for harsher and harsher responses to asylum seekers would be anywhere near the level it (supposedly) currently is, if it were not for the collusion of the main stream media in keeping the true facts out of the public eye. There is a lot of outrage out here. I am hopeful that it will deliver change at the ballot box, provided there are people of calibre and true leadership we can vote for, who can be trusted to wear that leadership responsibly. And provided the mainstream media do not orchestrate another misinformation campaign that will fool the misinformed and /or lazy in the electorate about these complex issues.

  3. OzFenric

    I am waiting for accused murderers in the courts to start using the “Berati Defence” – that their murders weren’t as bad/numerous/heinous as somebody else’s.
    …No, I don’t think it would work in our courts either. Just disappointing that it appears to suffice for Parliament.

  4. Kaye Lee

    Principiis obsta and Finem respice—‘Resist the beginnings’ and ‘Consider the end.’

    “And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you. The burden of self-deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, in my case my little boy, hardly more than a baby, saying ‘Jewish swine,’ collapses it all at once, and you see that everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you live in—your nation, your people—is not the world you were born in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God. The system itself could not have intended this in the beginning, but in order to sustain itself it was compelled to go all the way.”

  5. Kaye Lee

    Perhaps the tragic death of Reza Berati may be our “Jewish swine” moment. What have we become? Will we allow it to continue? We MUST make it stop!

  6. hannahquinn

    As they did in opposition, the government ‘distracted’ everyone by hysterical faux outrage over an ‘insult’ to Lieutenant General Angus Campbell. Apparently, according to the prime minister, Morrison is not a wimp, said in his ‘defence’ over the ‘incident’ inside Manus Island detention and which resulted in a murder, but his right hand man, an experienced soldier, requires defending over an insult. Come on, Australia, we’re better than this. Don’t be distracted by the shiny whilst in the dark the horror increases exponentially.

  7. nickthiwerspoon

    Loathsome. Vile. unChristian. Evil. Hypocritical. Monstrous. Repellent. Nauseating. Horrible.

    And that applies to both main parties on this issue. Why I shall never vote for them again.

  8. Dan Rowden

    Well, if you’re going to riot, what do you expect, to be given candy and and a pat of the head? Riots create chaos. People get hurt. Security personal and entitled to defend themselves, aren’t they? If you don’t want to be hurt, don’t riot. No-one made you do it, did they?

    And so the attitude goes. The problem is there’s just enough “common sense” content in such an argument to make the average Aussie think it’s fair enough. Add to this the on-going war on sympathy being waged by successive Governments and it’s not hard to understand why there’s limited national outrage.

  9. Stephen Tardrew

    When I was young, some millennium ago, my parents sent me to church and while we were taught Christian religion at school we were also taught science. There was no argument about the efficacy of science or scientific methodology. To me science and evolution were just common sense even though I kept my belief in Christianity because, back then, it was the done thing. The one thing we were not taught was critical thinking and logic. This is not surprising because there was no way to derive logical axioms from a book of magic and mythology. Fair enough some stories in the Bible may have historical grounds however much is obviously a human invention. The same goes for all other religions that rely upon mythical figures and miraculous events.

    Logic and polemics were to be found in philosophy driven by convoluted formulas and heard headed linguistics. There was no simple foundational set of rational principles that could enlighten the general public as to the efficacy of logic and critical thinking. Academics have a body of knowledge they expect people to learn before they can make any reasonable contributions to a field. Make no mistake about it ordinary people often think that they are excluded because they cannot grasp the theoretical complexity of a subject. Even the popularizes of science feel they have to fill their books with every possible description and explanation parsed down into ordinary language

    I do not wish to argue or pillory my religious friends however we are on the edge of a devastating future if we cannot agree that religion applies to our subjective domain of wishes hopes and desires and if it gives comfort then well and good. However the objective world runs on an entirely different set of demonstrable principles that can be verified and or falsified.

    If we can discriminate between subjective desires and objective facts then science could stand on its own free from religious intervention.

    There are certain axioms that are essential to science like cause and effect as well as material determinism.

    Empathy, reciprocity, compassion and forgiveness rise naturally out of cooperative communities of organism dependent upon each other for survival.

    Is it so hard to trace back cause of war too the originators of lies and deceits. The narrative that every opinion should have equal weight is absurd when the evidence, logically and empirically, supports one side of an argument.

    Yet the edifice of science is undermined by emotional drives born of fear and irrational ideologies that run against the observable facts. It is the perpetrators of unsupportable myths that drive an irrational narrative given room because of some democratic ideal of equal voices and equal choice.

    Unless we can bridge the science religion divide in a rational and cooperative manner we will continue to promote irrational ideas that have no supportable scientific validity. And this irrationality will play out to our ultimate cost.

    This is the major challenge of our time.

  10. Gina

    Reblogged this on In my own opinion and commented:
    Our leaders have no backbone, they focus on a measure which places value for a human life of their choice, for their own spotlight, they do not understand that all human life matters.
    This is not a game of numbers, on which party killed the most people! A loss of one life is already too many!

  11. Kerri

    Well said John Kelly. The shame is even greater as unlike the Germans, we are unable to claim ignorance of these war crimes.

  12. Wayne T

    Indeed, where is the outrage?

    On Wednesday morning, a work colleague made a few comments in support of the Miranda Devine opinion piece about the ‘hypocrisy’ of the Greens regarding this young man’s death. (I have no intention of providing a link, it would only distress any sane individual who had the misfortune to read the drivel spouted therein). I disagreed, and stated my reasons, also quoting the ‘standard you walk past….’ and how I could not bring myself to walk past that standard and continue to think myself a decent human being. About half an hour later, I received the following email:

    Let’s just say that the “open door” humanist, compassionate approach caused at least 1200 deaths. Wanting to be good to people is commendable. However, there is also the viewpoint of not allowing yourself to be taken advantage of. Sad, but true, but many of the worst crimes committed in this country have been by recent arrivals from countries whose cultures are totally at variance with Australia’s.

    Bottom line, you are not a sovereign nation if you can’t control your borders. That doesn’t mean that you don’t accept immigrants – in fact some real refugees have been unable to get here because of the queue jumpers and country shoppers. What is does mean, though, is, to quote Howard, we need to decide who comes here and who does not.

    Apart from the illogicality of some of that argument, my colleague was unable to grasp the fact I wasn’t addressing the question of who can come and who can’t, it was about how we treat people who legally have the right to seek asylum.

    The ‘outrage’, at least as far as my colleague is concerned, was all directed towards the asylum seekers, not one whiff of questioning the circumstances leading to why the ‘riot’ occurred in the first place. I was very saddened to discover this was a common attitude among my colleagues (about 75%), and regardless of any argument I put forward, the consensus held. The demographic in this work place is roughly an even gender split of age ranges from 35 – 60.

    THERE’S where, sadly, the outrage appears to be.

  13. mars08

    Australia has lost the capacity to feel empathy…. and that’s not only in the case of asylum seekers…

  14. diannaart

    John Kelly

    I clicked ‘Like’ on this article – byt that is not true – I loved it.

    Where is the outrage?

    Is it acceptable to treat people exponentially harsher because we need to send them some kind of message. Which apparently runs something like this:

    “Don’t come to Australia – we may be a democracy with more rights than your nation bestows upon you – but we don’t care and will continue to implement increasingly brutal treatment of families on leaky boats because we can – that we may end up as brutal as the regimes from which you are fleeing, well that’s just too bad. You have to harden up – so that we don’t have to.”


    “if you have the temerity to riot against being imprisoned in tents ‘girted’ by barb-wire for, like, indefinitely, then it’s you’re own fault if one of you is murdered”.


    “Just because the majority of Australians arrived by boat, doesn’t mean just anybody can”.


    “Actually Australia is just as racist as when the first fleet docked into port – we just like to pretend it is something else.”

    An outrage.

  15. john921fraser


    It appears as though Abbott ( the Prime Minister for Unemployment) is taking Australia back to the American version of the "Isolationist policy" in the late 1930s.

    When it comes to refugees.

    Actually Abbott is just taking Australia back to the 1930s across the full spectrum.

  16. Stephen Tardrew

    Wayne T the only answer is that there is some kind of structural problem in education and the promotion of rational thinking. That so many are willing to forgo compassion tends to indicate they have not really learned what compassion is.

    Political ideology and expediency is spread into the public domain by loud voices that use the techniques of indoctrination and fear. It would be great to offer a simple solution however unless there is a strong counter voice there will be no change.

    Labor is so compromised that our outlet for ethical change has been undermined by the right embracing economic rationalism.

    Go figure a Labor party that sells its soul is no longer a labour party.

  17. MotW

    What a strange cell block tango the Australian government is these days. When “He had it coming” is deemed a valid excuse instead of owning up to one’s own ineptitude. Clearly the Abbott government thinks they can get away with murder. When you throw away morals and deem the law, with all of its loopholes and flaws, ethical, you throw away the part which reminds you that the system is there for people to coexist. When you change the laws to get away with murder, then you have sunk below what humanity should stand for.

  18. Wayne T

    Stephen Tardrew, I hear ya. What really confounded me was that two of the people arguing the ‘hard line’ are children of former refugee’s. WTF????
    And Kaye is correct, Dan is owed an apology

  19. Stephen Tardrew

    Too right mate. An apology is called for.

  20. John Kelly

    Scotchmistery, I have removed your post. It completely misunderstood Dan’s comments and was considered inappropriate.

  21. boombi

    Absolutely right about the diversionary tactics of the government , nicely provided by Senator Conroy and Labor doesn’t seem to have the skill to see through it and not fall for the trap .
    But where is the opposition demand for a criminal investigation into a murder. ? Oh for the verbal skills of Paul Keating. Shorten is lame .Minimal leadership capacity there . We the people will just need to just do it for ourselves, collectively .

  22. Kaye Lee


    Feel free to remove mine too. it detracts from the excellent discussion you have initiated.

  23. scotchmistery

    Ok John. Thanks for having the decency to note that and why. I will go back and read Mr Rowden’s post and see where i missed it.

    Mr Rowden, Dan, I have re-read your post, and you have my humblest and most abject apologies.

    John, to you, my apologies for being too quick to condemn.

  24. Kaye Lee

    Thanks scotchmistery.

    Anyone can act in haste and make a mistake. Not everyone can realise their error and apologise for it.

    Perhaps you can give the two major parties a lesson on how to say “We got it wrong.”

  25. diannaart

    Just thinking about the power of the apology.

    Have you ever experienced an apology when you didn’t expect it? Suddenly the tension evaporates, the anger is gone – even though whatever happened cannot change, but a real apology, one that acknowledges the mistake (not one of those generic types) is such a release.

    Labor could admit they got it wrong on refugees and sincerely admit that their plan did not save people from drowning —- we know boats went missing —, that stopping the boats was always a chimera, admit on-shore processing saves the tax-payer lots of $’s, that treating people humanely and quickly processing applications (which is easier if refugees are on the mainland) would reduce the mental (and physical?) anguish (in other words less riots; more accountability). So much could be achieved. Sure the LNP would wet themselves crowing over Labor admitting mistake – but then what? Labor could move onto a real alternative to the LNP. While the LNP would continue to look like the (insert preferred description) that we know them to be.

    It can be done.

  26. Stephen Tardrew

    Her, here diannaart.

  27. Stephen Tardrew

    Here Dummy.

  28. mars08

    Clearly the Abbott government thinks they can get away with murder. When you throw away morals and deem the law, with all of its loopholes and flaws, ethical, you throw away the part which reminds you that the system is there for people to coexist.

    There was a time we told ourselves that we were a nation of irreverent larrikins. Supposedly we were stolid, skeptiacal individuals… easy-going and rebellious. I always thought we were probably kidding ourselves. Certainly the 21st century has revealed an unhealthy authoritarian streak in our fellow citizens.

  29. Dan Rowden

    What? Something interesting happened and I missed it? Hey, no fair!

    Anyway, whatever was said, it’s cool. Misinterpretations happen. Emotions are heightened in these dark and disheartening times.

  30. Dissenter

    It is necessary to MAINTAIN THE GRASSROOTS demonstrations and candlelight vigils until they CANNOT HELP BUT TAKE NOTICE.
    Alreay this has disappeared into the background and state elections and the senate election are to come.
    Political parties are all to PREOCCUPIED TO maintain THE RAGE AND MAINTAIN THE PRESSURE.

  31. scotchmistery

    The political parties want the rage as it now stands – taking jobs, changing the face of the country, but none can (or perhaps will) give us an alternative, so we are stuck with the religiously right under Abbott and the determinedly right (thanks to the “big end of town”, wallowing in the wake of Murdoch et al, changing the “who” we are as a nation. Not fair, not accurate, and not very uplifting.

    It isn’t the country I went to war to defend and seeing it now, from my point of view back then, I wouldn’t have.

  32. trevor vivian

    saw a bumper sticker recently. It said ” Australia: Rehousing boat people since 1788″

    Says it all really and yet the polemics of such a sticker could cause a Eureka response such is the nature of the debate,conversation,media headlines,politicians appeals to the bad angels, which inhabit the Australia of today.

    Howard, Reith et al ‘Children overboard” was really “morals overboard” and then Howard won an election on the back of it.

    Manipulation of the electorate by Scott the Christian Menace using a page from the Tony Abbott playbook on Political patronage in the 21st century gives succour to all those who need a professional apologist to show the way.

    Wheres the outrage. Well the Australia inherited from the relaxed and comfortable Howards way is present today and people rather than be outraged by “towel” head deaths in custody is just more of the same since 1788 of deaths in and out of custody of the 1st people.

    In intellectual circles”(educated)” the “OTHER” is acknowledged.

    The “OTHER” named as fear of and toward different skin and looks and voice and cultural ways is justification for what is ignored and infiltrates the hidden shame that nations carry and people of the hidden occasionally fill these comments with their repressed violence and indifference, misplaced rage and blame at the behest of headlines in the media and “i saw it on TV ,it must be true” while the shapers of detestable politics rejoice not realising that Karma acts alone in its time,place and outcome.

    Where is the outrage indeed!

  33. mars08

    Howard, Reith et al ‘Children overboard” was really “morals overboard” and then Howard won an election on the back of it.

    Howard, Reith et al would not have tried their stunt if they had expected it to be rejected by the public. And I suspect the public wouldn’t have swallowed the bullshit if they weren’t so inclined to believe it.

  34. scotchmistery

    Horribly, that states it all.

    Scratch the surface of the average Joe in the street, and find a dyed in the wool racist, who won’t admit it.

  35. silkworm

    5000 jobs are going to be lost at Qantas. This is good news for the government. It will take the media focus away from the murder of Reza Berati.

  36. Kaye Lee

    I now understand how someone in an abusive relationship feels. I feel humiliated and powerless to stop the abuse.

    “Lord Deben, when he was John Gummer, was a former UK government minister under Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major. He has lashed out at the Abbott government’s climate policies as being, “so unintellectual as to be unacceptable; I mean it is just amazing.”

    The British peer’s remarks to the Financial Times, itself hardly a bastion of radicalism, included a stab at the climate analysts from which Abbott bases his climate policy, describing their work as “very dubious.”

    “[This is] the last example of a government coming to power on the basis that really all this [climate change] is nonsense,” said Deben.

    Lord Deben’s forward to the report reads: “The study shows that 61 out of 66 countries have passed laws to promote domestic, clean sources of energy and 54 have legislated to increase energy efficiency… legislation is progressing at a rapid rate, reflecting the fact that addressing climate change is being seen firmly in the national interest.”

    Australia’s climate mitigation policies seem to moving at a similar pace in the opposition direction.”

  37. doctorrob54

    Reblogged this on doctorrob54 and commented:
    How sick is this country.

  38. Emerald green

    The current government seems to have a new version of the Christian ideal
    “Do unto others as rednecks and bogans in marginal seats would have you do.”

  39. diannaart


    Certainly the 21st century has revealed an unhealthy authoritarian streak in our fellow citizens.

    An insidious trend – have noticed for years that many Libertarians (mostly of the right) are authoritarian towards others – as in “why does your libertarianism infringe upon mine and others’?”

    What has changed is not so much that there are more of these hypocrites, but they now feel so ‘liberated’ as to be openly arseholes – apologies for word-pic that may offend the sensitive.

  40. abbienoiraude

    To add to Kaye Lee’s piece;
    “What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security.”
    They Thought They Were Free – Milton Mayer

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